Laser Welding International, Inc (LWI), the sister company to Prototech Laser was a pioneer in automotive laser welding. Having started the company in 1995, it grew to a $40 million-dollar entity in less than 10 years. Laser welded blank technology was exploding at that time with companies such as US Steel, Thyssen Steel, Arcelor Steel, Shiloh Corporation and Noble International.
Laser Welded Blank technology reduces vehicle weight, number of vehicle parts, fuel economy and overall cost while increasing strength and safety.
LWI, a start-up at the time, needed to find a way to compete with these multi-billion-dollar organizations, so the company invented a process that no one else in the world was doing, Curvilinear laser welding. This process allowed for multi-dimensional welding where previously it had been done only in one dimension. It allowed the automotive engineers to design their products with a much greater degree of freedom. Needless to say, the technology took off.
The good news (and the bad news) was that LWI became the only company on the planet that could engage in this process. That, of course, stretched the limits of the company in all facets, and in turn made the automotive industry very nervous. The automotive OEMs, in essence, had all their eggs in one basket and were determined to create a larger supplier base for this technology by any means. LWI’s competitors were also quite uncomfortable with this new, small, disruptive company.
“It felt like the wagons were circling”, declares CEO and founder, Steve Prue. “Like everyone was gunning for us, since we had a technology that no one could figure out how to do and was also in high-demand from the automotive industry. We were threatened, sued, harassed and lived through several other gestures that I cannot freely talk about today”. “We managed to fend off the feeding frenzy for a while, but it became clear that a change was eminent”.
LWI was shipping to 10 production facilities around the country and was starting to feel significant additional demand requests including internationally. It soon became apparent that the modestly funded start-up would have to secure a great deal of financing or find a strategic partner to endure its continued meteoric rise. Soon thereafter, reluctantly, LWI was sold to an international competitor and much of its once proprietary technology continues in the industry today.
Through joint ventures and strategic partnerships, LWI’s curvilinear technology can be found in Asia, Europe, Australia and North and South America. LWI’s sister company, Prototech Laser is still independent and in operation today after 30 years in business. They are a full-service metal fabricating company specializing in metal forming, machining, welding, assembly and laser cutting services.
As a national leader in the industry, located in Chesterfield MI, Prototech’s innovative team is particularly adept at taking existing technologies and modifying or customizing them to meet unique customer needs. If you have any questions regarding metal fabrication and laser cutting services call 586-598-6900 and speak to a Laser Welding Specialist. Check out our video on laser welding below: